What books do I read? Last night, I saw that four architecture books had landed next to my nightstand. Was it haphazard? No, it’s a sign of a life-long obsession. Here was Esther McCoy’s Case Study Houses, and next to it was Corey Buckner’s monograph, A. Quincy Jones. Michael Webb’s Brave New Houses overlapped the bent corners of an exhibition catalogue, Blueprints for Modern Living (a great MOCA show). As I leaf through these books, ponder the Julius Schulman images, and read random pages, I am mindful of my early contact with residential architecture. I know that I was lucky to grow up with a distinct cultural asset. I lived in South Pasadena, not far from architecture in the residential style by Greene and Greene. A childhood friend lived in an iconic Irving Gill. My junior high school was next to the offices of Whitney Smith. My high school art teacher took me to see my first Richard Neutra House, the Perkins residence. And eventually, I found the location of La Miniatura, Frank Lloyd Wright’s first use of cast block in his Pasadena residence built for Alice Millard.
This morning I drove along the east side of the Silverlake reservoir. I passed the Neutra research house, at the northern edge of the lake. I glanced at two more Neutras along the boulevard. I remembered the Schindlers from the western side of the lake, including the many in Hollywood and the surrounding hills. And I remembered MOCA’s superb 2001 exhibit of Schindler’s work, recognizing the architect’s “widespread influence over the creative community of Los Angeles.”
So when I recall LACMA’s “conversation” between Michael Govan and Jorge Pardo, I keep going back to Jorge Pardo’s comment that the Los Angeles architectural environment was “impoverished”. Did anyone notice that Michael Webb, eminent architecture scribe, was sitting in the audience that night? I wish I had drawn Pardo’s attention to this sentence by Michael Webb:
“Throughout its years of explosive growth, Los Angeles has been a crucible for experimentation in residential design.”